By Ken Bradley, Sporting News:
When push came to shove Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Alabama did what Alabama does. It pushed harder. And eventually, West Virginia relented, unable to withstand the punishing ground game that has been the signature piece to Alabama’s dominance in the Nick Saban era. Everyone was interested in what Alabama would do at quarterback. Blake Sims started — FSU transfer Jacob Coker didn’t take a snap — and he was solid (24-of-33, 250 yards). But he didn’t win the game for the second-ranked Crimson Tide. Isn’t that the debate at Alabama — that the quarterback doesn’t have to win games? When it came down to it, all Sims had to do was hand the ball off to the 1-2 punch of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry.
Blake Sims took a seat on the bench next to Jake Coker after leading Alabama to a score and the two chatted for a few minutes before it was time for the offense to go back on the field. Conversation was the only thing Sims and Coker shared at the Georgia Dome. The quarterback job, Sims had all to himself. The fifth-year senior played well enough in his first career start to keep playing, getting plenty of help from Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, and the second-ranked Crimson Tide held off West Virginia 33-23 on Saturday. Sims was 24-for-33 for 250 yards, added 42 running, threw one interception in the fourth quarter, and took every meaningful offensive snap. Tide coach Nick Saban said leading into the game that both Sims and Coker, the Florida State transfer, might play but there was only one point during the game that he thought about pulling the starter.
By Michael Casagrande, al.com:
Favored by more than three touchdowns, this was supposed to be a little easier for Alabama. But, in Blake Sims’ debut as starting quarterback, the Crimson Tide out-gunned West Virginia’s quick-draw offense with its balanced attack. After leading by just three at halftime, Alabama took out the Mountaineers 33-23 by pounding away in the second half. Told he’d start Friday, Sims completed 24 of 33 for 250 yards including several crucial third-down conversions. Amari Cooper was his go-to target with 12 catches and 130 yards. T.J. Yeldon went for 126 rushing yards and two scores while Derrick Henry added 113 and another touchdown.
BY Jeremy Fowler, CBS Sports:
If Blake Sims is Alabama’s full-time quarterback instead of Jacob Coker — and that race seems far from over — it’s time for Nick Saban to embrace what he seemed to oppose for years. No-huddle offense. Fast Football. Sims, a fifth-year senior and first-time collegiate starter, is an athletic quarterback in a pro-style offense. He’d be perfect for some read option, but that’s not coordinator Lane Kiffin’s thing. But Saban, a self-proclaimed supporter of the “dinosaur age” offense with blocking tight ends and two backs and two receivers, admits Sims was at his best when the Tide went no-huddle. Sims was rattled in the second quarter.
The University of Alabama’s Blake Sims set Crimson Tide records for completions and attempts by a quarterback in a starting debut game, running backs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry rushed for more than 100 yards each, and receiver Amari Cooper eclipsed 100 yards receiving in the No. 2 Crimson Tide’s 33-23 victory over West Virginia before a crowd of 70,502 (capacity: 71,228) at the Georgia Dome Saturday evening. Sims completed 24 of 33 attempts for 250 yards with one interception and did not throw a touchdown pass. The completions and attempts are the most in Crimson Tide history by a quarterback in his first start. Yeldon finished with 126 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns while Henry rushed for a career-best 113 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts. Cooper had 12 catches for 130 yards, the second-most catches in a single game ever by a Tide receiver behind DJ Hall’s 13 catches (185 yards) against Tennessee in 2007.
By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Alabama has yet to decide on a starting quarterback, still weighing options between dual-threat Blake Sims and pocket-passer Jacob Coker, a transfer from Florida State. Trickett played alongside Coker with the Seminoles and called him “one of the better throwers I’ve seen in my life.” Holgorsen said “too much has been made” about Alabama’s quarterback battle. “We have to be aware of who they are, as far as elusiveness of one,” the fourth-year head coach said. “There is only so much you can prepare for. The flip side of that is I doubt they’re going to have two different offenses for those two guys.”
By MARQ BURNETT, ledger-enquirer.com:
Call it an early test. Despite Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin expressing his interest to call the game from the press box, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said the players would be better served with Kiffin on the sidelines. During Saban’s time at Alabama, former offensive coordinators Major Applewhite, Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier have all called plays from the press box during their tenures. But with a new coordinator breaking in a new quarterback, Saban made the decision to take a new approach and put Kiffin “on the field.”
By Andrew Gribble, al.com:
This game will determine whether Alabama can not only show it’s moved on from the consecutive losses that ended 2013 in miserable fashion, but also show it’s better at slowing down an uptempo, no-huddle attack such as the Mountaineers’. Three things to look for: 1. Distribution of wealth: Alabama’s got three running backs it hopes to get involved early and often against a Mountaineers rush defense that allowed more than 190 rushing yards per game last season. How it utilizes T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake remains to be seen. 2. Speed ball: The last time Alabama faced an uptempo, no-huddle offense, it walked away from the Superdome on the wrong side of an embarrassing 45-31 loss to Oklahoma. Alabama’s players have said they’ve moved on from how 2013 ended. 3. The QBs. Duh.: Blake Sims and Jacob Coker threw hundreds of passes throughout August in preparation for the Crimson Tide’s season opener.
By Ken Rogers, Dothan Eagle:
Sure, Blake Sims and Jake Coker are probably feeling some nerves today. But Lane Kiffin is right there with them – and on the sidelines, to boot. Alabama’s offensive coordinator makes his debut with two unproven quarterbacks, a true freshman at left tackle and expectations that this is the most potent Crimson Tide offense in the Nick Saban era – at least from a playmaker standpoint. Whatever changes Kiffin makes to the offense come with an asterisk, as Saban said this week. “It’s got to fit in with what the players can do,” the head coach said.